The light from Tabby's Star is fading again, but scientists can't figure out why. Is it caused by comets, Trojan asteroids, or aliens?

SeekerPublished: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018
Published: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018

KIC 8462852 probably sounds like a string of random letters and numbers to you but I'm willing to bet if you've watched this channel long enough, you've heard it before. It's the name of a star, also known as Tabby's Star, and it set the internet ablaze a couple years back when it dimmed in ways nobody could really explain, unless you pinned it on aliens building massive structures to power their civilization.

However, since then we haven't seen the star's light fade, and so public interest in it did. But in April of 2017, light levels started dropping again, giving astronomers new clues to come up with new ideas. Are any more compelling than a giant energy-harvesting megastructure built by aliens? I'll let you be the judge of that.

First, a refresher on why Tabby's star is so mysterious. In 2011, the Kepler Space Telescope observed its light dimmed briefly by 15%. Almost two years later, it temporarily dimmed again, this time by about 22%.

Often a drop in a star's light levels is a sign that a planet is passing in front of it. But even a planet the size of Jupiter would only block about 1% of the light coming from a star like this. And the dimming caused by planetary transits should be symmetrical and at regular periods, but these aren't. They're erratic and all over the place, and can last anywhere from 5 to 80 days. What we have on our hands gang, is a mystery.

 

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